Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, September 29, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Barack gives another speech, the prostitution rings in Iraq finally get some press attention, and much more.

These are the words, the words are these,
death lingering, stunk,
Flies swarming everyone
Over the whole summit peak
Flesh quivering in the heat
This was something else again
I fear it cannot be explained
The words that make, the words that make
What if I take my problem to the United Nations?
-- "The Words That Maketh Murder," written by PJ Harvey, first appears on her album LET ENGLAND SHAKE

Yesterday, US President Barack Obama insisted before the United Nations, "Even as our economy is growing and our troops have largely returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, we see in our debates about America’s role in the world a notion of strength that is defined by opposition to old enemies, perceived adversaries, a rising China, or a resurgent Russia; a revolutionary Iran, or an Islam that is incompatible with peace."

The economy's growing (at a snail's pace) and "our troops have largely returned from Iraq and Afghanistan"?

Not quite what he ran on in 2008, is it?

Back then, the Cult of St Barack gathered to hear him thunder, "We want to end the war!"

They might have puzzled over -- maybe even booed? -- a statement like, "We want to largely end the war!"

He further insisted:

In Iraq, the United States learned the hard lesson that even hundreds of thousands of brave, effective troops, trillions of dollars from our Treasury, cannot by itself impose stability on a foreign land.  Unless we work with other nations under the mantle of international norms and principles and law that offer legitimacy to our efforts, we will not succeed.  And unless we work together to defeat the ideas that drive different communities in a country like Iraq into conflict, any order that our militaries can impose will be temporary.   

What international norm or principle is Barack exhibiting when he drops bombs daily on Iraq?

What hard lesson taught him that would work?

Because it hasn't worked for over a year now.

Operation Inherent Failure.

Robert Burns (AP) sums it up, "A summer of stalemate in the effort to reclaim the Iraqi provincial capital of Ramadi, despite U.S.-backed Iraqi troops vastly outnumbering Islamic State fighters, calls into question not only Iraq's ability to win a test of wills over key territory but also the future direction of Washington's approach to defeating the extremist group."

Not only is Barack's plan or 'plan' a failure but its exhausted patience within Iraq.  Al Mada reports that Shi'ite political parties are nervous about the US' military role in Iraq and plan to ask Haider about it (if and) when he finally appears before Parliament.  MP Mohammad al-Karbouli serves on Parliament's Defense Committee and states that the popular crowd (Shi'ite militias) insist that there should be no foreign troops on Iraqi soil.

Confronted with strong opposition, will Haider fold or dance like the puppet he is for the White House?

Zayd Alisa (Open Democracy) offers this:

One year after Haider Al Abadi took over the premiership and the US commenced airstrikes against ISIL or ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Levant, previously known as Al Qaeda in Iraq - AIQ), Iraq is grappling with not only an increasingly menacing existential threat posed by ISIL, but also an intensifying wave of protests. Erupting in Basra—Iraq’s major port and above all where the overwhelming majority of Iraq’s oil exports stems from—the protests swiftly swept through southern provinces, eventually reaching the capital Baghdad.
The demonstrations were initially sparked by a brutal heat wave, which has been exacerbated by an indefensible chronic shortage in the electricity supply and by almost non-existent public services. They have dramatically expanded, however, forcefully calling for an all-out war on corruption and swift political reform.

These protests have sent shock waves across the Shia political blocs, largely because they are severely undermining their credibility and legitimacy with their Shia powerbase. The three biggest Shia political blocs, which have persistently been at the heart of all Shia-led governments since the US-led invasion in 2003, are the State of the Law (SoL), which is led by the Dawa party, and from which comes not only the incumbent prime minister, Abadi, but also his predecessors Nouri Al Maliki and Ibrahim Al Jaafari; Islamic Supreme Council (ISC) led by Ammar Al Hakim; and the Sadrist Al-Ahrar bloc.

Challenges to Haider go beyond the Parliament.  Zaid Sabah and Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) report:

A Shiite militia that refuses even to identify its leader is emerging as one of the greatest threats to the Iraqi administration it’s meant to be backing.
Kataib Hezbollah has thousands of fighters deployed against the jihadists of Islamic State. While the Iranian-backed group has played a key role in helping Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi stem the militants’ advance, it’s now joining forces with other Shiite militias to oppose the premier’s push to enact a measure that could limit its own power, and Tehran’s influence.
At the heart of the dispute is the National Guard Law, legislation meant to bring all pro-government armed groups under a unified command. The measure is backed by the U.S. as the only way to halt the breakup of OPEC’s second-biggest oil producer.

And yet All Iraq News quotes MP Jasim Mohammed Jaafar (Iraqi National Alliance) insisting that the National Guard bill "will be endorsed by the Iraqi Parliament after the vacation of Eid Adha."

Of course, one MP after another has insisted for over a year now that this bill was on the verge of passing.

Barack himself's been pushing it publicly since June of 2014.

Maybe he should have made his (military) support conditional?  No passage of the bill, no US war planes?

Haider's been busy in the US of late.

His Tweeter feed is little more than glorified selfies.

  • PM Al-Abadi met Mr. Nikolay Mladenov, special coordinator for the peace process in the Middle East

  • Mladenov?

    The failure as head of UNAMI is now over the peace process?

    Well I guess that's one way to rig the effort and ensure no progress.

    Mohammed Shafiq (Alsumaria) reports that Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari also addressed the United Nations Monday insisting that it needed to help Iraq with its crises.

     Which I guess is his way of insisting that the new deal with Russia was necessary.

    CBS and AP note:

    Iraq will begin sharing "security and intelligence" information with Russia, Syria and Iran to help combat the advances of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS,) the Iraqi military announced Sunday.
    A statement issued by the Iraqi Joint Operations Command said the countries will "help and cooperate in collecting information about the terrorist Daesh group," using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.

    On CNN (see video on page), they argue the aspect of the goals of the US versus Russia with regards to Syria (the US government wants Syrian President Bashar al-Assad replaced -- that has been the goal since the days of Bully Boy Bush).

    But another aspect is how can Iraq share intelligence with Russia?

    The US is sharing intel with Iraq which Iraq will then pass on to Russia?

    I have no problem with intel being shared but I'm not the person in the White House who has demonized Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    Barack created the 'great enemy' Putin -- as we noted in real time.

    Putin was a minor player -- a fading one -- until the President of the United States repeatedly elevated him at the end of Barack's first term by verbally attacking him.

    That was Barack's decision and the world lives with the consequences.

    So it's worth noting now that the chain of intel will go something like this: US government shares with Iraq which then shares with Russia.

    Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) offers this take:

    Yesterday’s announcement that Iraq is going to engage in intelligence sharing with Russia and Syria has been met negatively by Pentagon officials, who say that it “complicates” the US war and dramatically weakens America’s own intelligence gathering abilities.
    This problem appears to be largely a function of US annoyance at the information sharing, which means the Pentagon intends to limit intelligence sharing with Iraq, seemingly out of spite, and will subsequently get less intelligence from Iraq in return.

    Ditz seems a little self-righteous and ignorant in the above.

    I have no problem with intel sharing.

    But I do grasp that the US might not want to share intel with someone they're picking a fight with.

    I'm confused as to why that's such a mystery to Jason Ditz.

    Violence continues in Iraq.  Monday?  Alsumaria reports a Baghdad car bombing left 3 people dead and seven more injured and Khalidiya mortar and rockets attack killed 1 sixteen-year-old girl and left two children and two adults injured. Iraq Times adds that a 45-year-old man was shot dead (three shots to the chest) in front of his Basra home by militia members and a Basra tribal clash left 3 people dead and a fourth injured.

    In other news, Alsumaria notes that the Ministry of Health states there are now 401 confirmed cholera cases in Iraq. All Iraq News adds that 14 confirmed cases are in Diwaniya Province.

    On cholera, we'll note this Tweet:

  • For years, we've noted the sex trade in Iraq.  Few have.  Off Our Backs did (the feminist publication ceased publication shortly after).  Today, CNN's Arwa Damon Tweets:

  • The New Yorker report is by Rania Abouzeid and here's an excerpt:

    In 2012, Iraq passed its first law specifically against human trafficking, but the law is routinely ignored, and sexual crimes, including rape and forced prostitution, are common, women’s-rights groups say. Statistics are hard to come by, but in 2011, according to the latest Ministry of Planning report, a survey found that more than nine per cent of respondents between the ages of fifteen and fifty-four said they had been subjected to sexual violence. The real number is likely much higher, given the shame attached to reporting such crimes in a society where a family’s honor is often tied to the chastity of its women. The victims of these crimes are often considered outcasts and can be killed for “dishonoring” their family or their community.
    Since 2006, Layla, a rape victim and former prostitute, has been secretly mapping Iraq’s underworld of sex trafficking and prostitution. Through her network of contacts in the sex trade, she gathers information about who is selling whom and for how much, where the victims are from, and where they are prostituted and trafficked. She passes the information, through intermediaries, to Iraqi authorities, who usually fail to act on it. Still, her work has helped to convict several pimps, including some who kidnapped children. That Saturday night, I accompanied Layla and Mohammad on a tour of some of the places that she investigates, on the condition that I change her name, minimize details that might identify her, and not name her intermediaries.

    The work is extremely dangerous. The pimps whom Layla encounters are women, but behind them is a tangled hierarchy of armed men: corrupt police, militias that profit from the sex trade, and militias that brutally oppose it. On the morning of July 13, 2014, the bullet-ridden bodies of twenty-eight women and five men were retrieved from two apartments, said to be brothels, in a building complex in Zayouna, a neighborhood in eastern Baghdad. I saw the bodies a few hours later, at the city morgue, laid out on the floor. Morgue workers blamed the religious militias, singling out the pro-Iranian Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, one of the many armed outfits proliferating in Iraq. Other groups of suspected prostitutes have been found shot dead, but the Zayouna incident was the largest killing in recent years, and it prompted at least fifteen neighborhood pimps whom Layla knew to flee with their girls to Iraqi Kurdistan. Layla often visits apartments like the ones in Zayouna, posing as a retired pimp. As a cover, she sells the madams abayas that are intricately embroidered with colored crystals and diamantés; they serve to identify women as pimps, rather than prostitutes, at night clubs.

    I should probably do a correction.

    Off Our Backs did report on the issue.

    In fairness, AFP also frequently mentioned "prostitutes."

    Whenever a woman died and someone accused her of having been a prostitute -- excuse me, whenever a woman was murdered and someone accused her of having been a prostitute -- an anonymous neighbor or a vindictive police officer -- AFP was happy to report this allegation as fact -- despite having no proof and knowing what a slur the charge was in Iraq.

    Now AFP was never interested in reporting on prostitute rings or pimps or anything like that.

    But let a woman be murdered and AFP was happy to stamp her with "prostitute" -- in a "she had it coming" kind of way.

    Lastly, Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Col Bernie Sanders" went up last night.